State Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, has filed a declaration of intent to run for Georgia Labor Commissioner in 2022, he told the Tribune.

Thompson represents portions of western Cherokee County, parts of Bartow County and a small section of Cobb County. He chairs the Georgia Senate’s Economic Development and Tourism committee.

The Republican state senator says he’s running to fix problems in the state Department of Labor including a lack of response to lawmakers and constituents.

“The agency is broken, and I believe I’m the guy to fix it,” Thompson said.

The announcement comes as state lawmakers are at odds with Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. The General Assembly last week passed a bill to hire a chief labor officer who would give lawmakers reports on financial audits of the agency and unemployment claims distribution. Butler has said the position is unnecessary, though the bill waits for the governor’s signature.

Thompson abstained from the measure, but he pointed to it as a criticism of the current labor commissioner.

“If he’s doing his job, why would the General Assembly do that?” he said.

As commissioner, Thompson wants to establish a relationship with state lawmakers, modernize the agency and cultivate the department’s work force a many employees are getting older, he said.

Thompson said that the agency was slow to respond to requests from auditors for information to complete a state audit.

“It put our AAA bond rating at risk. For those that don’t understand what that is, think about (if) you have a 750 credit score personally, and if it’s going to go to 550. It costs us as a state a lot of money,” he said. “So even though labor commissioner is not a highly sought-after position, nor is it sexy, it certainly has a huge impact on economic development in our state, which I chair.”

The state senator said his background in business and software have helped prepare him for the job. He added he’s gained bipartisan support for some of his work, pointing to the “Tim Tebow” bill that allows homeschooled children to compete in public school sports, and another bill that denies parental rights to those convicted of rape.

“So I have, I believe, a history of working across the aisle and working with people, regardless where they may be on the political spectrum,” he said. “We’re also in a situation where I’m at a place in my life where whether I stay in the General Assembly as a senator or move on to an opportunity to serve the people at the Department of Labor, I can afford the time to be able to invest. And looking from the outside in, I’m not sure the current labor commissioner has the time to invest in solving the problem.”

One person has formally registered a campaign for labor commissioner this year with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission: Nicole Horn, a Democrat from Atlanta, according to the state ethics commission website. Horn is a business executive and entrepreneur, according to her website.

Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.

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Shannon Ballew is the managing editor at the Cherokee Tribune and the Cherokee Ledger-News. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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